Hey everyone! I was discussing this issue with my Facebook fam and wanted to know your thoughts. And while this video was sparked by a specific situation, I have seen similar several times before and have also been in similar situations myself – the discussion points are really what I’m getting at, rather than the backstory.
Furthermore, there are several nuances that pertain to the topic:
- I think there is a difference between promoting a product organically (for free) and being taken advantage of by a company. When people first started doing reviews on YouTube, it was because they wanted to share information and their favorite products with other people. Basically, it was a virtual water cooler. It didn’t become overly saturated and to be frank, fake, until companies realized that word of mouth has a lot of power and is much cheaper than traditional advertising, and in turn influencers realized that we could also capitalize off of this need from companies. While I think it’s perfectly fine to review a product or promote it as one pleases, if the influencer is consistently tagging or linking to the company, or reaching out to them to let their PR team know that they are receiving coverage and they don’t even receive so much as a thank you, I don’t think that’s cool. The support should really be a two-way street, even if it isn’t in the form of money. Sometimes, you might @ or tag a company in your content (i.e., their free promo), and they don’t even retweet it. Take note of these companies. 🙂
- Sponsorships and affiliate programs are two completely different things (although this could vary depending on what the company labels their programs or their policy). Often, you do not even need a platform to be an affiliate – many sites offer affiliate programs for their customers as long as you use the product or have a means to share a link to it, and you then generate revenue if people click your link and buy something. This is similar to companies providing you with a referral link (for instance, Groupon does this, or they did) and you receive store credits or discounts based on how many people buy from your link, but some choose to offer a % of the sale. These programs are often open to the public and are not unique to social media influencers. Although! Some companies DO require you to have some kind of blog or channel to be an affiliate and they indicate this on their sign up page, so it really depends. Affiliates do not always receive free products, but free merch or discounts may be a perk, depending on the program.
- In a sponsorship, you usually work directly with the company to promote their brand in various ways – either writing content for their site (like if they have a blog), doing videos featuring their products, making appearances at events, etc. – basically, whatever the company is requesting you to do and is willing to either pay for or offer you the means to do so. For instance, depending on their budget, you may not get directly paid for attending an event, but the company will pay for your travel and give you a stipend for food while you’re there. Sponsorships often include a contractual aspect to ensure both parties are delivering what was agreed upon, because there is usually some kind of monetary aspect (direct payment, plane ticket, hotel, etc). Also, in a sponsorship, you may not be required to falsely promote a product (I’d hope not although I am fairly certain some people do this), but as a type of spokesperson for the company, it is usually requested that you not speak negatively about the company. For example, if they send you a product and you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have to say you do (although yes, some people do this because sometimes you get paid per video, so if you decline the video you don’t get paid), but you would decline talking about it at all. This is often an area where it gets tricky with viewers, because some see it as lying by omission, but at the same time, no one is going to pay you to tell people to not buy their product, and you can’t help it if you end up not liking it.
- If you don’t have a contract with a company, both parties run the risk of not receiving what they want because the agreement is usually informal. Of course, if you have the information in an email, you could take them to court, but in my opinion, that’s not worth it unless they stole what you delivered or you were owed something significant. I once worked with a company and their head of marketing verbally offered me a lifetime supply of their product – you think I ever got that? Nope.
- Not every company or brand has a media (PR) list, especially small businesses, although this is highly recommended. And still, even if they do have a list, everyone on the list is not guaranteed each product for each release. They may have a limited number of press kits, or could be pitching to a certain type of influencer on the release. For instance, if I’m on the list for a natural hair company and they are releasing a product for straightening hair, I’m probably not the best person to receive that product because I rarely straighten my hair and probably won’t use the product. Once, a company released new permanent hair dyes and sent them to me without asking, which was a total waste because I didn’t want to dye my hair any of the colors they sent me.
- Regarding communication, creators do not always respond to outreach from companies (seriously, I’ve been hit up about covering children’s books – they obviously didn’t even look at my site), and companies do not always respond when they are solicited by creators for partnerships. Would it be nice? Absolutely, but that’s the nature of the industry – both sides often receive several requests and only respond when they are interested. In my opinion, it’s even worse when they initially respond then stop (I mean, can I get some closure?), but again, this is fairly normal, so I try to not take it personal, and I hope they do the same.
- FTC: Just like blogs, we are required on social media sites to disclose that an endorsement has been paid or we have been compensated in some way (the product was gifted, our description contains an affiliate link, etc). You may have read a blog and it contains the disclosure, “This post contains affiliate links.” Same thing should be in a YouTube description. Social media disclosure includes YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. Directly from the FTC site:
“Now suppose the person works for the company that sells the product – or has been paid by the company to tout the product. Would you want to know that when you’re evaluating the endorser’s glowing recommendation? You bet. That common-sense premise is at the heart of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Endorsement Guides.”
You’d think that this is fairly easy to do, but I think a lot of people don’t like it because of the perception of looking like a walking ad, even if you truly do like a product. Also, I know that when one is quickly writing a social media post, they may forget periodically. However, that’s the policy and people should follow it. So beware of people loving everything with special discounts and links and they never indicate their FTC status in their details on a YouTube video or with #spon or #ad on social.
All of the information provided above is based on my experience as a creator of 6 years, my conversations with other creators and business owners, and my experience in the public relations and communications industry for ten years. Do I know everything? No. Can companies have different guidelines and policies? Absolutely, but I thought it was important to share some general information given the current state of social media and how information is shared. Back to our regularly scheduled program.
Juvia’s Place Link: http://www.juviasplace.com/ (I ordered the Masquerade palette, and yes, I paid for it with my own money.)
Full FTC Guidelines can also be found here for those interested or concerned about watching reviews where the influencers gets free products: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking
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